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Does Acupuncture Hurt?

Updated: Jan 18, 2019

Acupuncture treatments are generally relaxing experiences. Acupuncture needles do penetrate the skin and cause what is called a ‘microtrauma’ which causes a physiological healing response from the body. Some patients feel needles going in, and others do not.

Things to know about medical-grade needles.

  • Acupuncture needles are thin, solid and threadlike.

  • The size of most acupuncture needles is relative to the size of a hair, around 34-40g.

  • Hypodermic needles, like the ones used for injections, are much larger diameter and are hollow in the center.

  • Twenty solid acupuncture needles can fit inside one hypodermic needle.

  • Acupuncture needles are sterile and single-use.

  • The FDA regulates the use and manufacturing of acupuncture needles.

But does it hurt?

When an acupuncture needle is tapped into the skin, a fraction of a second of slight discomfort can be expected. The sensation may feel like a millisecond of slight pressure. Once the needle has penetrated the skin, no pain or discomfort should occur. Patients often report feelings of electricity, numbness, tingling, or warmth in the area of insertion, as well as in other body areas where no needles are inserted.

What are the risks?

Stinging, twisting, or painful sensations should NOT occur during acupuncture treatment. However, muscle fibers can sometimes become twisted or sometimes a small blood vessel can get punctured, causing slight discomfort. If this instance were to happen, the acupuncturist can simply adjust or remove the needle to end any feelings of discomfort.

Acupuncture needles are NEVER placed into nerves or arteries. This would cause excessive bleeding, extreme pain, or nerve damage. Licensed acupuncturists have a minimum of 2,000 hours (3-4 years) of training in their field and know how to place needles strategically and safely. Click here for more information on risks.

Where are the needles placed?

There are over 300 acupuncture points from head to toe. The abdomen, arms, legs, back, shoulders, base of the skull, and head are commonly used point locations. Treatments generally use between 5 and 20 points per treatment.

What happens once the needles are in?

Acupuncture treatments trigger the parasympathetic response in the brain. This is state of brain activity where healing occurs. After needles are inserted, patients generally fall asleep or enter a state of deep relaxation. The deeper the relaxation, the better the healing experience. This is why breathing deeply and relaxing the mind assist in the effectiveness of the treatment.

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